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Thought for the Day: Understanding Certainty from Uncertainty

I must admit to being sympathetic to Robert Frost's traveler who prefers the road less traveled.  Part of my bike ride to work is along part of the North Branch of the Chicago River.  The path I take is on the east side and is very well travelled, as it is lined with parks and even a swimming pool.  This morning I decided to take the "road less travelled by" (sic) on the west side of the river.  It was glorious.  No other bikes nore even pedestrians.  I bit narrow in places, closer to the river, and comfortably overhung with trees.  At one point, though, the paving came to an abrupt end, and I was facing dirt path.  I didn't worry too much, and was certainly not going to retrace my steps/rotations (harrumph)!  Quickly the overhung became overgrown.  Finally, the path was all but gone and I was wedged between a chain link fence and a forest of trees.  By the time I thought this might not be such a good idea (I'm slow to realize those things...), it was too late (read: impossible because I couldn't turn around and backing through the brush and branches was not a viable option) to turn back.  I finally emerged from thicket with only one more hurdle -- a fallen tree blocking the egress -- over which I carried my bike and continued to the well travelled path.

In spite of some scratches and bruises (perhaps, because of, as it makes for a better story), I was pleased to have made the trek.  Which is also precisely why I do not want to take the road less travelled in halacha.  Especially as someone who came to observance and learning later in life, I am rather picky about what I ingest.for "halacha l'ma'aseh".  First and foremost, of course, my posek is R' Fuerst.  When it comes to learning from a text, though, my first go to is, of course, Mishna Brura.  Now I have the Dirshu edition which helps by bringing in authorities who address issues that are new since the Mishna Brura and also complements it in some areas.  I also now will (time permitting... isn't that always the great hope?) look up some of the referenced texts; especially when the Mishna Brura himself recommends seeing more details here or there.

I have one more source to fill in gaps and increase my breadth: R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach,  Whenever R' Fuerst says over a chidush from R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and I ask "can I rely on that", the answer is in the affirmative.  Baruch HaShem, R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has (and is quoted in) many important s'farim.  Shemiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa, of course is a practical and very accessible reference.  I have recently been learning Shulchan Shlomo, which is R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach commentary on the hilchos Shabbos section of Shulchan Aruch.  I say "commentary", because he often doesn't give a final p'sak, but brings up interesting issues.

For example: If you want to leave food hot/cooking on Shabbos, one needs to cover the flame/burner; aka, have a blech.  However, if the food is completely cooked and will only get worse with more heating, then technically you don't need a blech.  The Shulchan Shlomo therefore proposes that one could, in principle, remove the blech.  (You'd have to be very careful not to lift the pot more than just barely enough to be able to slide out the blech so you don't get into issues of returning the pot to the fire, which are much more serious.)  Suppose however, the food was not fully cooked before Shabbos and only becomes fully cooked after nightfall.

Now... we have a general principle that once something is muktza throughout twilight, then it remains muktza for the entire Shabbos.  On the one hand, therefore, since the blech needed to remain under the pot throughout twilight (ie, it is muktza), then you shouldn't be able to move it even later.  On the other hand, you could have decided to take the pot completely off the fire at any time during twilight, at which time you could have removed the blech (since there wouldn't be any necessity for it anymore).  Since you could have moved it during twilight (but you didn't), does that mean that it doesn't fall under our general rule.  That's the end of the discussion; the Shulchan Shlomo then goes on to a completely new topic.

What's the point?  By making explicit where doubts/uncertainty arise, you see with crystal clarity and certainty where there will be no question.  This seemingly extraneous excursions into questions like this are actually bright and clear borders on our map of halacha.


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